Category: Press Releases, Europe, Ukraine

Journalist, sound engineer killed in eastern Ukraine

Russian media workers die after coming under mortar fire

Pro-Russian separatists transport empty coffins intended for bodies of dead fighters near the regional administration headquarters in Luhansk on June 18, 2014. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

VIENNA, June 18, 2014 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today called on all parties to take greater care to ensure the safety of journalists in eastern Ukraine following the death yesterday of a Russian correspondent and his sound engineer near Luhansk.

AP reported that Igor Kornelyuk, a correspondent with the state-owned Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, and two colleagues, sound engineer Anton Voloshin and cameraman Viktor Denisov, came under mortar fire while reporting from a village outside the city.

Kornelyuk was wounded and taken to a hospital, where he died. Voloshin was initially reported missing, but his network said yesterday evening that he died as well.

Denisov reportedly said the team was filming the flight of Ukrainian refugees when they came under fire.

Russian authorities angrily blamed authorities in Kiev for the deaths. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed his condolences and said he had ordered an investigation into the incident and was taking measures to ensure journalists’ safety, Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported.

However, AP quoted Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, as saying that Kornelyuk was killed in fighting that erupted when “terrorists” attacked Ukrainian law enforcement troops. AP said Sergeyev told journalists that it was “not clear if [Kornelyuk] entered Ukraine legally or not, but he didn't follow the instructions to all the journalists to be accredited”, to identify themselves as journalists or to wear armoured vests and helmets.

IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), extended condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of Kornelyuk and Voloshin, and they called on all parties to the conflict from Kiev to Moscow to allow journalists to do their jobs.

“The need for accurate information is even greater during times of conflict, and too many journalists and media workers have already lost their lives in eastern Ukraine this year as the bloodshed continues,” IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi said. “We demand that authorities in Ukraine conduct a swift, full and transparent investigation to determine the full circumstances behind the deaths of Mr. Kornelyuk and Mr. Voloshin and to hold those responsible to account.

“We also urge authorities in Moscow to make clear to pro-Russian elements in eastern Ukraine that any violence harassment or intimidation of journalists – no matter their origin – is absolutely unacceptable.”

Kornelyuk is the fourth journalist killed in Ukraine this year and the second to die amid fighting in the country’s restive east.

Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter and fixer Andrei Mironov were killed by mortar fire on May 24 in Sloviansk as they were covering clashes between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Officials in Kiev and pro-Russian separatists each accused the other side of having launched the fatal fire.

Journalist Vasily Sergienko, an anti-Yanukovych activist who also worked for the local Nadrossia newspaper, was found dead on April 5 in a forest in central Ukraine one day after witnesses said three men forced him into a car outside his home. Reports indicated that his body bore signs of torture and his head was severed. Initial accounts said authorities were looking into a possible connection with articles he wrote criticising a former local governor in Cherkasy.

Vesti journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy died in a Kiev hospital on Feb. 19, one day after masked men pulled him from the taxi in which he was riding and beat him severely before shooting him in the chest. The men – who witnesses said were pro-government thugs known as “titushki”, but wore garb resembling anti-government protestors – had been attacking other cars when the taxi passed the scene. They reportedly targeted Veremiy after he attempted to photograph them.

>> For more information, contact IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis by Opens window for sending emailemail or at +43 (1) 512 90 11.